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'Don't put it off': The importance of breast cancer screenings

Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 13:49:39-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After 20 radiation treatments and two surgeries, Celeste Henderson was finally cancer free in September 2019.

Her doctor caught her stage one cancer at her annual screening earlier that year. It was an appointment she almost canceled because she didn't want to take off work and her self-exams felt normal.

"I didn't feel anything, didn't see anything, no type of change at all but that mammogram showed," Henderson said. "So I'm glad that I did not cancel that appointment."

On the TODAY show Monday morning, journalist Katie Couric also revealed she caught her stage 1a cancer early.

"I was pretty stunned," Couric said. "And I think those words, it's cancerous or you have cancer do stop you in your tracks."

Couric admitted that because of COVID, she was actually six months late for her screening.

Many other women are in the same boat according to Susan G Komen. They report more than one-third of women are not up to date on theirs.

"During the pandemic, screening was dramatically down and we are not yet up to pre-pandemic levels and there is probably going to be thousands over time breast cancers that were either missed or diagnosed at a later stage and the later you diagnose with breast cancer, the less likely she is to be cured of that cancer," Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center oncologist Dr. Elizabeth Comen said.

"Our bodies are always changing so we don't want to give cancer any leeway on developing and growing to any point," Kentucky Cancer Program Cancer Control Specialist Amy Steinkuhl said.

Couric also revealed in the interview that she has dense breasts, which means she has a higher risk of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society also reports that "dense breast tissue makes it harder for radiologists to see cancer on mammograms."

That's why the ACS recommendation is that women with dense breasts should talk to their healthcare provider about considering additional tests beyond the traditional mammogram.

Steinkuhl said the conversation with your doctor should start at 20 years old. She said it's important to discuss family history, know your own body, and develop a plan for future screenings.

Susan G. Komen lists screening guidelines based on age here.

ACS estimates breast cancer accounts for 30 percent of all new cancer cases detected in women each year. The average risk of a woman in our nation developing breast cancer during her lifetime is 13%. In recent years, incidence rates have increased by half a percentage point.